‘I noted it down,’ discerning substance in a concrete-free phrase

This week, things have returned to a prior, less solipsistic order, but last week, searching for the words “I noted it down” on one of the larger search engines brought up in the number one spot my post on Casa Azul and its cats, and the role their existence had played in the life of my mind so far.

I spent more than a decade pondering the loss of the list of the names of the cats of the Casa Azul, but now, thanks to the near relatives who went to Mexico City and compiled the list again on my behalf, I am made whole. It’s not the same list of course, but it serves the same purpose, just as the consideration of later front-lines of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (Terence Blanchard and Donald Harrison, for instance) summons to mind their predecessors in the band (Freddie Hubbard and Jackie McLean, let’s say). Reading the names of the contemporary troop of cats brings generous details of my visit from the nineties to mind, but even in those days when list-less, I survived without being able to recall the little beasts’ names, recalling the memory of having made the list would, like a relay, sharply evoke that visit to Coyoacan.

Some googlenaut had actually searched for “I noted it down,” and found my Casa Azul post. I know this because it popped up in the analytics one day last week, and bewildered me to no end. There’s no concrete noun in the phrase: the association that “I noted it down” would entail in someone’s head was opaque to me, in the way that search-engine fodder like “tub girls” is all too transparent.

And when I looked it up myself, it seemed to me that my original post had relatively quite a lot to say about “I noted it down.” There wasn’t, for instance, a great famous quote that had escaped the mind of the search-engine user.

The clip that has replaced mine at the top of the list is this: “He gave me the date and I noted it down. And EXACTLY five years later, it happened.” Here it is the prescience of having noted the date that is being remarked upon (I guess; I haven’t read through the linked page; I prefer not to disturb the perfect opacity of this particular text by reading it).

Here’s the second link:

Then i walked in a shop and bought a diary and two black sketchpens to note the things down that i will do on the day. I was actually not trying to welcome 2009 but i was a little sad for 2008, and i think that is why i was perplexed.…I noted it down in the diary.

—from the first post on http://abhinavyadav.com/blog/

This “I noted it down” quote includes the context of the noting: it’s done in a special diary, with a special pen. I particularly like the idea of perplexity (a word that I will always associate with Professor Cuthbert Calculus) coming on the heels of auld-lang-syne–style sadness. In this case, and strictly for myself, “I noted it down” is a kind of four-word emotion organ emulator, an ALT-text version of some strange invention out of a Jack Vance book, that creates perplexing sense-harmonies from the sequential interplay of different emotions.

So, “I noted it down.” Whatever the object it is, it has somehow returned to mind in the mind of the writer: the phrase laces an episode from the past tightly to the present: “I noted it down then and have returned to it now.” It’s making a list, paying attention, keeping tabs on something.

In the Casa Azul post, I saw “I noted it down” as an identity-building trope: this was something that I did, and that on some perplexing level was a form of identification: I make lists of things that uniquely interest Jonathan, therefore I am Jonathan. Now, I see the phrase as a way to connect the often mystifying present with a clearer, better defined past. I don’t know what’s going on right now, but my clear description of this one certain event in the past can be used as a lens to focus that busy present.

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How do you concrete it with the mesongun?

“One thing puzzles me, Mr. Biebursson—and I am a technical
man myself—the use of congealed water, this vitreous quartzlike
substance. How do you form the water into these patterns, these
compound curves, and hold it so while you concrete it with the

 Biebursson smiled. “No problem, with the natural advantages that are
mine. I am a spaceman—I work where the forces of gravity have no
effect, where the whole of time is mine for

Jack Vance, To Live Forever

Jack Vance, ‘To Live Forever’

The protagonist: a serial murderer. The antagonist: a woman seeking to solve the mystery of her own death. Jack Vance through these hoary clichés gives life to a far-future society, where death is the last taboo and immortality is the prize awarded to one of every two thousand citizens. For the other 1,999, the high black car of the Assassins will come at a specified hour to take them away.

 Early in the book, Gavin Waylock, the protagonist, who has been hiding out for the seven years required to prove the death of his earlier identity as one of the immortal Amaranth caste, resolves to climb the slope of society and win again a place in Amaranth. He did it once as a journalist; he can do it again in another discipline.

His efforts to find a place in society are continually foiled by The Jacynth Martin, the woman who sees through his new guise and identifies him as The Grayven Warlock, the notorious Amaranth-caste murderer. Gavin’s original crime and his murder of The Jacynth are only temporary, however: each victim has a spare body ready and therefore suffers only a temporary loss of consciousness.

This could all be safely left on the shelf, unread, as thrills-and-spills literature, except for Vance’s creativity and wry humor in his characterization and exposition. His description of a pantomime performance is breathtakingly beautiful, even as the mime herself is revealed to be a self-indulgent brat, and the concept of the congealed-water sculpture (and the sententious spaceman sculptor character responsible) is the kind of impossible-in-real-life artifact that only literature can supply.

Out once again, chasing the dawn

Another brisk morning, although it’s been getting slightly warmer. Since I moved to the tent, I’ve been on the asleep at 10:30, up at six schedule that everyone inside more or less shares. That plus the cold I’m shaking off has kept me off the piste in the mornings. Instead I get up, wash up, dress, clean off the bike’s brake pads (I used to check the tire inflation too, but with the short valve stem of the current rear tube, it’s a little more difficult to use the gauge), and ride the 400 meters distance to breakfast, then over here to the internet cafe to catch up on whatever emails I’ve received during the night.

I finished JackVance’s “To Live Forever” last night and was dumbfounded by how good it was. I’ll write more about it later.